I am uncomfortable when conversations seem to seek replacements for vowed religious life. The truth is, God is still calling people to make lifelong, vowed religious commitments, and people are still saying yes.
Four months ago, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men quietly sold the Silver Spring, Maryland, building they've co-owned since 1982 and shared with other Catholic organizations.
Srs. Susanne Dziedzic and Johnna Ciezobka opened a community resource center in Kingstree, South Carolina, 26 years ago. The Felician Center has flourished, and today is in the process of transitioning to lay leadership.
Today, people enter religious life after they've earned advanced degrees and accumulated debt. The Labouré Society helped individuals fundraise to pay down their debts and has turned to teaching religious institutions how to eliminate the debt they already have.
Sr. Prasanna Devi shares Christian blessings with the thousands who have been drawn to her over the years. The Catholic hermit, who has lived among lions, panthers and other wild animals deep inside a forest in western India for 40 years, returned to human society four years ago, at the request of the local bishop. Devi does not belong to a particular religious order but chose the contemplative path of an ascetic, devoting her life to God. She is believed to be the only female member of the Syro-Malabar Church to choose such a life.
The 21st-century religious seeker is not bound to a rigid paradigm of ideas but is just that, a seeker or a quester, one in search of meaning, community, identity, wholeness: essentially, God.
As director of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation's Catholic Sisters Initiative, Sr. Jane Wakahiu oversees one of the largest funders in the world of programs and initiatives focused on Catholic women religious. She spoke to GSR about the foundation's recently announced a new five-year strategy.
Several communities of sisters joined the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in issuing statements in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis.
Revelations of clergy sex abuse, cover-up and infighting among church leadership continue to shake the Catholic world. Sisters spoke to GSR about the crisis. They advocate giving women religious and the laity authority in abuse cases; putting women religious in positions of authority within the church to thwart clericalism; and including more women religious in the vocation process for priests.
Supporting themselves through impact investing, sisters use funds to promote social changes like reducing reliance on fossil fuels, creating opportunities for employment training, and bringing fresh groceries to former "food deserts." Putting money directly into startup companies or organizations that create a positive social or environmental impact along with financial returns as they grow is a newer way that more Canadian religious communities have found to help people while generating operating and retirement income. "We don't just do this because it's a good thing to do," Ursuline Sr. Theresa Mahoney said. "It is that, but it's also good for us. It brings us financing we need, and it gives us joy."
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